Shin: 'We Fared OK' in Aeronautics Budget Request
By: Jim Hodges
Jaiwon Shin offered insight on Washington's budgeting parameters in a Tuesday visit to NASA Langley's Reid Conference Center.
"Flat is the new increase," Shin, who heads NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said. The agency's aero budget request for the fiscal year 2013 request is $551.5 million, down 3 percent from anticipated 2012 expenditures.
"I think we fared OK," Shin said. "It's certainly not the great budget that we were hoping to get, but in the larger context, I think the aeronautics budget fared well. We will be able to do everything we planned to do. We will still be able to do fundamental research … and we will be able to work in areas of aviation safety, environmentally responsible aviation and air traffic management."
Shin acknowledged that the $18 million shortfall was made up from hypersonic research, a Langley staple for decades, and he met criticism of the cut head on.
Citing a desire to realign NASA Langley with a look toward increased technology development as well as forging partnerships to better handle tough fiscal times, Lesa Roe, the center director, has submitted a Langley reorganization plan for agency approval.
"I organized my talk that way because I know the hypersonic reduction is at the forefront of the concerns list for people," Shin said. "I wanted to talk about that first and make sure I had time to talk about it, rather than putting it at the back end and running out of time."
The reason the aeronautics budget is at least close to holding the line during a time of federal fiscal retreat is the accomplishments of NASA people who are developing and testing technology to solve problems of the aviation industry, he said, then offered an example.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the company's long-awaited and already highly sold passenger aircraft, uses 20 percent less fuel, which accounts for less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. It emits 28 percent less nitrous oxide and is 60 percent quieter than the next best airplane in those areas.
The results are direct products of NASA technology, Shin said.
"This is right now," he added. "It's not in 20 years. These things are happening right now."
He pointed to an airline standard formula in which one-third of operations costs are attributable to labor, one-third to fuel and one-third to the cost of an airplane.
Now, he added, fuel costs are up to 50 percent of operations.
Shin spoke of a NASA plan that would speed airplane arrival times while using less fuel in doing so. "It's a $300 million savings per year," he added of the plan, which is being reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"This is tremendous," he said. "Cancellations and delays can be minimized. And this is why Congress loves our story. They love the value that we are bringing.
"We can sustain our budget because of good communication and good understanding. Really, think about it. There are all kinds of big-ticket issues in aeronautics that could have come down further. I really think the right perspective is because of the good work we've been doing, and proactive communication and good reception by Congress and the stakeholders. That's what enabled us to keep as much as we did."
Still, he did not sugarcoat the hypersonic issue, one that has drawn criticism from people in the field since the budget request was announced in February.
Shin said he has talked with the Air Force about working with NASA in hypersonic research and added that the agency would try to retain Langley's 8-foot High Temperature tunnel. It's a unique facility in hypersonic testing.
"It's a very encouraging message," Shin said of the Air Force's interest in working with NASA on hypersonic research. "But nothing is guaranteed."
He added, "This is not lip service. I don't do lip service."
For all of the recent gratification from NASA-developed aeronautics technology, Shin prodded the assembly to think of the future. It's a way to help commercial aviation deal with anticipated competition.
"We're sitting pretty in the global market," Shin said, "but 30 years we were saying Airbus would never be able to challenge us. Look where we are, 30 years later. The global market is just about evenly split between Boeing and Airbus."
Ahead lies potential competition from Canada, Brazil, China.
"We have to lead the country," he said of NASA's aeronautics effort. "It cannot be a pipedream. It must be the right vision. And we can do it. We have the intellectual capacity and the intellectual maturity that can do it."
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